Opening with the main character Taira (Yûya Yagira) being beaten up by a gang as his younger brother watches from afar Destruction Babies is an explosively angst ridden film starkly laying out the violent society we all live in and how quickly chaos can conquer all.
Running away from his sibling and home Taira heads into the city aimlessly wandering the streets and picking fights with passersby for no discernable reason. These brutal battles against the bemused bystanders either end in Taira’s victory or his defeat after which he moves on to the next victim of his uncontrollable anger.
As more and more people are randomly drawn into his cycle of pointless pain Taira’s list of enemies increases and the audiences his fights gather grow drawing in bored teenager Yuya (Masaki Suda) who seizes the opportunity to join the anarchic annihilation of the populace guiding and documenting the duos battles to cause the most mayhem possible.
The already dark movie moves further into moral corruption as Yuya indulges his base desires on the innocent’s around him attacking school girls and kidnapping a woman they find in a car they steal spurring on Taira’s lust for blood while convincing himself that they are playing a warped game without any consequences as long as they don’t get caught.
As the carnage continues word on social media spreads drawing the attention not only of the police and mass media but Taira’s little brother who suddenly has a chance at finding his brother. But as things spiral further out of control and the fights turn into murder it seems the siblings may never reconnect.
Japanese director Tetsuya Mariko’s movie pulls no punches starting out seemingly as a family drama about the orphaned 18 year old trouble maker Taira and his brother Shota (Nijirô Murakami) but quickly evolving into a whole other voyeuristic visceral cinematic experience.
Before Yuya’s arrival the audience simple follows Taira around the grimy back streets punching and kicking any unassuming male he sets his sights on ushering on long fight scenes filmed often from afar sporadically cutting in close to show the full shock and gore of the impact of these encounters on the actors.
Silent and psychotically smiling Yagira shapes Taira into a seemingly unstoppable sadomasochist able to give and receive endless amounts of punishment without rhyme or reason. His behavior is like a virus infecting all those he comes into violent contact with causing them to seek him out and engage him in bloody battle all over again creating a new culture of mindless and pointless brutality that people can either submit to or simple observe.
Crafting a world devoid of heroes or even likable characters where everyone is morally dubious Tetsuya Mariko’s film is reminiscent of both Fight Club, Clockwork Orange and Funny Games seemingly exploring masculinity and violence while also forcing the viewer to face their relationship with cinematic combat testing them to see how much they can endure watching in the same way Taira’s body is tested by the pain he endures.
Yuya’s appearance accentuates another element of Destruction Babies already present which is the concept of reality as a game. Taira’s behavior from the start already plays out like he is being controlled by a kid playing G.T.A or another ultra-violent console game moving from fight to fight, taking bikes and clothes from his victims and regenerating from his wounds face down in alleyways when he fails.
Yuya verbalizes this idea discussing with himself out loud what role he is in the game settling on ‘beast master’ making Taira his own personal pugilistic Pokémon that he dispatches at any member of the public he finds entertaining to see him fight. Making up the rules as they go they ignore all civil boundaries and laws operating however they want rebelling against the system just for the thrill of it
The films shift at this point of abstraction into the brutalisation and abuse of women and girls comes just as the viewer could be getting desensitized to the rampaging ruckus making the movie more sinister and disturbing in its final act and with no real conclusion or comeuppance for any of the characters its morbid message could alienate some viewers who crave a more clear cut conclusion.
Unrelentingly nihilistic Destruction Babies is brutal and challenging but also a captivating and thought provoking making you question your own morality as much as the characters and exposing humanities capacity for violence and anger leaving all of which leaves you emotionally battered and bruised by the end.